Tag Archives: fare

Rail fares rise by 2.7 per cent – and most of the money will go abroad

This is a Pacer train – a bus frame mounted on train wheels as a “stopgap” measure more than 30 years ago, until Northern Rail could afford to replace them. That has never happened and they remain in use today because Tory privatisation means huge amounts of our money have subsidised foreign nationalised railways rather than being invested in our own.

Are you aware that, Brexit or no, huge amounts of your money are funnelled into European Union countries – because of Tory privatisation of our national assets?

That may seem a strange way to open an article about this year’s 2.7 per cent increase in rail fares – but the point is that the extra money being extorted out of commuters will go abroad, to fund foreign rail services.

And the fact is that trains in the UK are now almost entirely state-owned – by foreign countries.

Yes, by stupidly selling off our railways into private hands, the Tories allowed them to slip into the ownership of foreign national railways.

It is to those firms that the extra money from yearly rail price increases goes.

Alternatively, perhaps you’d prefer to think of it in these terms: the same foreign rail services – owned by EU states – have creamed off seven-eighths of the subsidy that the UK government provides to privatised rail services and are using that money for themselves.

When I reported on this three years ago, that subsidy totalled £3.999 billion from the year services were privatised (1994) until 2017 – meaning foreign-owned rail systems had made £3.5 billion in profit from the UK.

Now, with far more of the network owned and run by foreign countries – and three years later – the amount of profit is likely to be far greater.

And the Conservatives running the UK absolutely love giving that money away.

They love the fact that almost all the money the Treasury has been providing to improve the service has been leeched off in profit for foreign rail services instead.

They love the fact that rail fares have shot up by nearly half since 2010, squeezing commuters’ pay packets – which are already worth less than they were in 2008 due to Tory austerity.

They have to love it – otherwise they have to admit that privatisation is a crushing failure that harms UK citizens rather than empowering them.

By contrast, rail fares in Germany have just been cut by 10 per cent.

German state-owned railway Deutsche Bahn runs around a quarter of all UK rail operating companies through its firm Arriva UK Trains.

So, if you have travelled by rail over the last few years, your money has helped make it cheaper for Germans to use their trains.

That is the result of UK rail privatisation.

The Tories are responsible for this. Still, at least the Germans know what to do with it, if only in their own country.

Source: Rail fares rise by 2.7%, hitting millions of commuters – BBC News

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Liberal Democrat hypocrisy over rail fares and energy prices

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Pre-election policy reversals are suggesting that the Liberal Democrats’ co-operation with the Conservative Party will cost them dearly.

The Liberal Democrats say they want to make it much easier for households to switch energy suppliers, and are pledging to end above-inflation rail fare increases.

They’ve got a nerve, haven’t they?

Check They Work For You and you may find that most Liberal Democrat MPs have voted against slowing the rise in rail fares. Vince Cable did. So did Danny Alexander and Ed Davey – and This Writer’s own MP, Roger Williams.

As for making it easier to switch energy suppliers, let’s look at the record of Mr Davey – who, until very recently, was the Coalition Government’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Faced with Labour’s proposals to freeze energy prices, he said this would be disastrous because the so-called ‘Big Six’ energy firms would all push up their prices both before and after such a freeze.

He was, of course, completely wrong. The energy firms have all cut their prices – before Labour even had a chance to gain office and implement its planned freeze.

According to the BBC, “the Liberal Democrats say their plans will shift the balance of power back in favour of consumers and commuters to ease the cost of living and save families hundreds of pounds a year” – but Labour’s price freeze plans have ensured that this has already happened.

So it seems the Liberal Democrats are proposing a complete policy reversal on rail fares, while refusing to face the facts about energy.

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Labour’s rail plan – what we need, rather than what we want?

De-railed: After years of reliance on taxpayers' money, it seems the ride may soon by over for some of the UK's rail privateers [Image: PA].

De-railed: After years of reliance on taxpayers’ money, it seems the ride may soon by over for some of the UK’s rail privateers [Image: PA].

The Labour Party seems to have a real problem with offering the public what the public has demanded.

Faced with demand for the railways to be renationalised, they seem set to announce a plan in which private firms compete with a public service for franchises.

The promise of privatisation had been that the new franchise-holders would keep prices down, and any investment should be made by the companies concerned.

In fact, fares and taxpayer investment have rocketed since the railways were privatised by the last full Conservative government in the early 1990s.

It seems that Labour’s plan, which may be announced next week (the party is being very cagey about it), will mean franchises are awarded based on “a pragmatic choice between the state and private sector based on price, reliability and quality of service” (according to a report in The Guardian).

This, we are told, “will provide a solution that allays commuter frustration, provides a fair deal for the taxpayer and does not amount to a return to British Rail”.

Such a decision will not only anger rail unions, Labour MPs who have been calling for renationalisation, and 70 per cent of the British public, but also the rail industry’s private operators, who say current bids for franchises must not be upset by allowing the state to join the process belatedly.

It has also been claimed that an extra risk would be imported onto the public sector balance sheet if a state-owned company won a franchise.

But this is narrow-minded thinking; the state currently spends much more on the railways than it did before they were privatised – we already have a large risk on the public balance sheet.

If these private firms had done their jobs properly, then the taxpayer would not be shouldering so many of their costs and – perhaps – the Labour Party would not be considering even the partial renationalisation that is on the table at the moment.

None of the UK’s current rail operators have kept their promises and after 20 years, it is far too late for them to bleat about the situation they have created.

It should also be noted that the public sector has been running the East Coast Main Line extremely successfully since the franchise run by National Express failed, making expansion of this management model highly attractive to Labour strategists who need to find ways of trimming the burden on the public purse.

As a group of prospective Labour MPs in marginal constituencies wrote in a letter to The Observer, it would mean “hundreds of millions currently lost in private profit would be available to fully fund a bold offer on rail fares”.

If so, it seems that this halfway-house plan may provide exactly what we need, even if it isn’t what anybody wants.

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Whoever said Labour has no policies: Prepare to be embarrassed!

Michael Meacher MP has proposed that Labour make the end of austerity its flagship policy. Don't get too excited - Labour has to get into office first, and we've no idea how bad the Conservative-led Coalition will wreck the systems of government before May 2015.

The end of austerity should be Labour’s flagship policy, according to Michael Meacher MP. Don’t get too excited – Labour has to get into office first, and we’ve no idea how bad the Conservative-led Coalition will wreck the systems of government before May 2015.

This is turning into a very bad weekend to be a Conservative.

The Nasty Party has lost control of 10 councils, with hundreds of councillors unseated. Its claims about people on benefits are falling flat when faced with the facts. It has fallen foul of UK and EU law with its fake psychometric test, which turned out to have been stolen from the USA. Its claim that Labour has no policies has proved to be utterly unfounded.

… What was that last one again?

Yes, you must have heard at least one Tory on telly, rabidly barking that Labour can’t criticise the Coalition if it doesn’t have any policies of its own. Those people were not telling the truth – even though they probably thought they were (poor deluded fools).

I am indebted to Michael Meacher MP, for posting information on the following in his own blog. He lists Labour promises, as revealed to date – and it’s quite a long list. Much – or indeed all – of it may have also appeared in an article on the Green Benches site, I believe. So let’s see…

Labour has already promised to:

  • Repeal the Health and Social Care Act (otherwise known as the NHS privatisation Act)
  • Build 125,000+ homes
  • Regulate private rents
  • Promote a Living Wage for public sector workers and shame the private sector into following that lead
  • Offer a minimum 33-40 per cent cut in tuition fees
  • Limit rail fare increases to one per cent
  • Reimpose the 50p rate of income tax for the super-rich
  • Impose a mansion tax on the rich
  • Repeat the bankers’ bonus tax
  • Reverse the bedroom tax
  • Scrap Workfare and replace it with a ‘compulsory’ Jobs Guarantee (I’m not too keen on this one but it’s been promised)
  • Offer a VAT cut or a ‘temporary’ VAT holiday
  • Implement the High Pay Commission report in its entirety
  • Scrap Ofgem and bring in proper energy price regulation
  • Break up the banks and set up a National Investment Bank, and
  • Support mining communities and clean coal technology.

In his article, Mr Meacher suggests that Labour needs to go further, with a really strong hook on which to hang all these policies. He suggests the following:

We will end austerity.

Yes, I thought that might stun you. Let’s have it again:

We will end austerity.

Now that you’ve had time to get used to the idea, I hope you’re applauding as much as I was when I read the article. Why not end austerity? The squeeze on public spending and services that David Cameron and his Boy Chancellor imposed in 2010 has not worked at all. There is now no basis for it – I wrote to Mr Osborne, requesting information on the other foundations of the policy after it was revealed that his main justification contained a huge error, and he has not replied, so clearly he has nothing to say. Its loss will be unlamented and can’t come soon enough.

There’s more in the article so I invite you to visit Mr Meacher’s site and read it yourself.

As for Mr Cameron… he’s a survivor but he’s starting to look tired and the number of his own party members who are stabbing him in the back is growing – Lord Tebbit has stuck his own knife in (again) during a BBC interview.

I wouldn’t bet any money that Cameron will still be PM by the end of the year.

Miliband’s plan: Return of the 10p tax rate

Labour's tax revelation: Ed Miliband announces his plan to reinstate the 10p lower tax band, as broadcast by the BBC.

Labour’s tax revelation: Ed Miliband announces his plan to reinstate the 10p lower tax band, as broadcast by the BBC.

What’s David Cameron going to whinge about now?

The comedy Prime Minister stuffed his foot deep into his own mouth during his questions on Wednesday, when he said he was not interested in Ed Miliband’s speech today because it would not contain any major policy messages.

Instead, Miliband not only took away one of Cameron’s favourite crutches – he has loved attacking Labour for removing the 10p tax rate (which he knew perfectly well was only intended to be temporary at the time) – but also spirited away one of Nick Clegg’s policy plans: Reintroduce the 10p rate and use a tax on mansions worth more than £2 million to pay for it.

That’s a brilliant strategy for the current situation. It answers Cameron’s criticism and it makes a clear message about Clegg – that Labour will do what he and his Liberal Democrats could not.

And it creates a clear priority divide between Labour and the Conservatives, who will introduce in a tax cut for people in the highest tax band in April.

Around 25 million people will benefit from this change, compared with 13,000 who will make money from the Tory tax plan.

His comment that the recovery will be created by the many – not just the few at the top – meshes very well with the opinion put forward on this blog yesterday about the Bank of England’s optimistic view of the future of the economy. The bank’s view, put forward by Sir Mervyn King, was that an improved manufacturing sector would lift us up – but this would only improve matters for people at the top of the economic ladder; Miliband’s plan brings rewards to those at the bottom.

And we know, don’t we, that people at the lower end of the pay scale keep the money circulating. That’s how the economy grows – keeping the money moving.

Mr Miliband also announced several other plans that would have important implications for working people and those who are on low incomes. These are to:

•Break the stranglehold of the big six energy suppliers.

•Stop the train company price rip-offs on the most popular routes.

•Introduce new rules to stop unfair bank charges.

•And cap interest on payday loans.

And a policy on tuition fees is promised before the next election; Miliband says he can see how off-putting they are to people who would otherwise put themselves through university.

These are all sensible measures. We pay too much for our energy; we pay too much on rail travel; the banks rip us off; and payday loans are nothing but a scam anyway – one that too many people are forced to use because the current system ensures they don’t earn enough to pay their way.

In the Q&A session, Miliband said he would tax bankers’ bonuses to fund a work programme for unemployed young people – and he thinks businesses would back this. It’s a plan that might work, as the economic benefit from getting people back into work – the expansion that would result – could offset the losses the banks would suffer. So everyone could win.

The urgent issue that hasn’t been covered today is that of disability benefits. Vox Political would like to see Labour change its approach to follow that outlined in the House of Lords this week: That the disability benefit system must be rethought, starting with the needs of disabled people, not with a plan for a budget cut.

As matters stood at the start of the current government, only 0.4 per cent of disability benefit claimants were believed to be claiming fraudulently. That’s one in every 250 claimants – a very small amount. The current bid to clear as many people off the books as possible – no matter how ill they may be – is an abomination that cannot be allowed to pass.

It seems David Cameron, campaigning in Eastleigh, has been asked for his opinion on the main announcement. He said it “looks like it has been cobbled together overnight”.

That’s a weak response from the man of whom Mr Miliband said: “Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out of touch, u-turning, pledge-breaking, make it up as you go along, back of the envelope, miserable shower than this Prime Minister and this government?”

Expect Labour’s poll ratings to enjoy a significant bounce.

Storm in a scrapyard over Hughes – while Osborne should be arrested

I can’t see any reason to make a fuss over Simon Hughes.

The Liberal Democrat deputy may have failed to declare – fully – a £10,000 donation from a scrap metal firm. Big deal. He did not see any of the money himself. Apparently there’s another donation of £15,000 from a cruise company. Hughes was the speaker at a Christmas cruise on the Thames, operated by this company, and has spoken about both firms in Parliament. It looks like straightforward ‘cash-for-questions’, if there’s truth to it.

Isn’t it more interesting that this should come to light on the same day that I read about George Osborne and his paddock?

This is not an allegation but fact: Osborne – who is, let’s remember, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and therefore should know the rules extremely well – included the mortgage for a paddock in his taxpayer-funded expenses.

He bought a farmhouse in Cheshire, along with the neighbouring land, for £455,000 in 2000, before he became an MP – but then, between 2003 and 2009, he claimed up to £100,000 in expenses to cover mortgage interest payments on both the land and the building. The mortgages were interest-only. After 2003, he never paid a penny himself.

When he re-mortgaged in 2005, he increased the amount to £480,000 – again on an interest-only basis – to cover the intial purchase costs and £10,000 for repairs. He was using public money to claw back his outlay on the property, so from then on, none of the money paid on that building or land was paid by Mr Osborne. It all came from the taxpayer.

During the MPs’ expenses scandal of 2009 we learned that he had “flipped” his second home allowance onto the property and increased the mortgage. What we didn’t know was that the expenses payments were not just for the house, but for the paddock as well; it is registered separately with the Land Registry.

Osborne sold the house and the land – both of which are now firmly established as having been funded with your money, not his – last year, for £1 million. That’s more than double the original price. He has pocketed that money; the taxpayer won’t get any of it back.

So he has exploited us to make £1 million for himself.

Make no mistake – this was not a necessary expense to help him discharge his Parliamentary duties; it was a property scam.

Because the money was claimed as a Parliamentary expense, I think there are grounds for a fraud inquiry. It seems like an open-and-shut case of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception (Theft Act 1968, section 16).

Let’s also remember that this is a man with what I believe is known as “form”. Earlier this year he was caught in the First Class compartment of a train, having paid only a Standard Class fare. Again, he had obtained an advantage via deception.

Did he pay any penalty for the railway incident? I’ve heard nothing. Will he pay a penalty for this £1 million wheeze? I doubt it.

But you should remember it, next time you see him telling you that his latest plan to squeeze the last vital pennies from your bank accounts are “fair”.

And you should pay particular attention to this comment from him, made when he became Chancellor (and therefore while he was still claiming the mortgage on expenses, before making the sale): “I took a pay cut, and froze my pay on taking this job, took a pay cut from the previous chancellor, the Labour chancellor, in order to show that politicians weren’t going to get away with it.”

He seems to think he can.

I find it extremely dubious that the allegations about Hughes should take pride of place on certain news media websites, while the facts about Osborne appear to be all but brushed under the carpet.

My opinion: Osborne should be arrested and remanded in custody (without bail – the risk that he might abscond would be too great) until a trial can take place.